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be justified. Someone who believes there are too few convictions for rape has the right to question the presumption of innocence. To defend a time-honoured principle successfully, those who have taken it for granted may need to rediscover its purpose.
Not that argument alone, however sound, will be enough. In a world in which more and more minds are closed, the scope for persuasion is limited. The Woke know this, and therefore pursue other approaches. They pillory, calumniate, shame and hector with the help of flash-mobs, open letters, demonstrations, petitions and witch-hunting Twitter-storms. Their opponents too must act as well as speak. However, they’ll have to avoid the viciousness of their antagonists, as they’ll be defending civility. Nor will they be able to deploy anger as if it proved they were in the right, since they’ll be upholding reason over emotion.
hey must learn to politicise things they would rather not, and to seize the initiative rather than merely react. Specific demands must be devised, not just in the hope of their being met, but to define a contrasting world-view. Perhaps we need a statute to defend free expression, as America has its First Amendment. Universities that fail to uphold freedom of thought might have public funding withdrawn. Positive discrimination by either explicit or implicit quotas could be outlawed. Access to women’s sporting contests could be denied to those born male, while self-declared change of gender could be discounted by public bodies.
Objectives should be identified not just for legislation, but for human resources codes of conduct, professional procedures and the operation of public services. Once identified, they must be pursued. Some potential fields of conflict are dominated by the sincerely Woke; in others, managements have merely bowed to the prevailing Weltanschauung to avoid trouble. In both cases, pressure can bring results, whether applied through customer services, parent-teacher meetings, feedback forms, letters to CEOs, shareholder AGMs, product boycotts, MPs’
surgeries or corporate complaints procedures. Complaints about Emily Maitlis’s monstering of Rod Liddle when she was supposed to be hosting a Newsnight discussion were eventually upheld by the BBC.
here is scope for simple recalcitrance: employees could turn down “unconscious bias” courses; students could spurn seminars on sexual consent. For major issues, the courts await. Because the law lags political change, it isn’t always abreast of the latest voguish baloney. The Equality Act dates back to 2010, a far-off time when parity of treatment was still the progressive goal. Now, the law might be used as a brake on current efforts to privilege favoured groups.
Last year, Noah Carl was examining genetic influence on intelligence at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge. An open letter signed by hundreds of students and academics condemned his study as “racist pseudoscience”. The college decided his work was “problematic”, apologised for the “hurt” his appointment had caused, and terminated his fellowship. But his response wasn’t a plaintive blogpost. Instead, he resorted to crowdfunding to pay for legal support. Now he’s using contracts and employment law to bring the college to book.
hose who want to make a real impact may have to change their lives. More of them must become school governors, student officials, trustees, magistrates, non-executive directors, parish councillors, trade unionists and political party members. They must learn how to support each other and to form productive alliances; if necessary, with unlikely partners.
All this is no small ask. The Woke don’t take prisoners: those who defy them can expect retribution. Jobs could be put at risk; friendships and even marital tranquillity may be jeopardised. Yet trying to duck these risks only cedes ground. The creation of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, which will enable academics to publish anonymously, is a retrograde step. This war has to be fought in the open. It may or may not be winnable, but it can at least be steadfastly waged.